Not too long ago at a Moundridge Board of Education meeting, an elementary principal asked what we thought of giving time to learn cursive writing.
Not too long ago at a Moundridge Board of Education meeting, an elementary principal asked what we thought of giving time to learn cursive writing. That question really shocked me. Technology is moving so fast that I had never considered the fact that cursive writing might not even be taught any more.
My “old school” views were once again coming into play. Was the world as I used to know it, in such a radical shift that we do not need cursive writing in anyway?
I grappled with this idea then and every day since. What about signing checks? I was told that you do not have to do it that way anymore. It will soon be a relic of the past. What about essay test questions and impromptu writing assignments? What about writing for the “fun” of it? I was told that laptop computers and a myriad of other technological devices would do the job. So where do I go from here? The new and controversial Common Core standards do not require it. Has this become a dinosaur in our modern society?
I went to instructors at all levels. There did not seem to be a consensus on either side of the equation. I went to a professor at a local community college who had his doctorate in psychology. My immediate question about cursive writing had to do with the development of the brain in young adults. If we give up learning cursive writing, will that have negative effects on the mental development of young minds? After much discussion, his view was that anything to stimulate and develop the mind was good. Cursive writing is one aspect of brain development just like other forms of learning. Doing crossword puzzles, for example, will make you good at that, but will it help in other cognitive types of activities? His views were thoughtful and enlightening, but I still was not sure where I stood on this issue.
A primary study and of interest to me is history. What about all those letters and historical documents that are often read and used for research?
When I was told at that Board of Education meeting that some young students had a difficult time reading cursive writing, I was more than just a little bit concerned. Did this trend have more than just a few warnings for the future?
Through these last few days I was reminded about something my father told me. He was my German teacher and also my high school principal. (That was a combination that I grew to appreciate as I got older.) He taught us to read the old German script on occasion. He said some of the old German writings had this type of script. If we were to be able to understand it, we would have to know how to read it. Will the writing of the English language reach such a state?
Will we have to know it in the future as a link to past historical documents? Is that the only purpose in its use today? Has technology made the use of cursive writing irrelevant?
The debate on cursive writing is not over, nor will it be anytime soon.
There are arguments pro and con. Most jobs never use cursive writing today. So that argument is not critical. Professionals such as doctors are using other means besides writing to relay information. Hand writing for notes in class was always a better way to remember information, or so I was told. I am not sure that was supported by brain research. I used my notes to study for tests. I suppose a laptop would serve the main purpose. I was always taught to write thank-you notes as we taught our kids to do the same. I suppose you can do that on-line today. That process seems to lack the personal touch, however. To me there always is something comforting about getting a handwritten note or letter from a member of your family. I am sure there are other uses as well. What about love letters? I am reminded about the time when Bess Truman was about to burn the letters Harry had written to her. The President said, “Think of history, Bess.” She said, “ I am, Harry.” And she proceeded to burn them. Or what about the most famous letters in history between President John Adams and his wife, Abigail. I could go on and on.
After all this, what is the answer for educators today? It seems that we cannot abandon cursive writing altogether. There is too much connection with the past. To ignore that is to do so at our own peril. However, to spend an inordinate amount of time on it would not be wise either. Reading and writing, including cursive, are crucial to our democratic way of life. Every school district must determine how much time needs to be spent on this skill. However, it is extremely important, in my opinion, that each young person has a working knowledge and capability of using cursive writing. It would take a very convincing argument to persuade me otherwise.